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Gerald Vizenor

Simone Pellerin

Bibliographic Essay

Simone Pellerin

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1That collecting bibliographical material can turn out to be an uneasy task, will be no news to anyone who has had a hand at it. But compiling a Vizenor bibliography is nothing short of an ordeal.

2Hence, the following bibliography is, at best, as exhaustive as can be in view of the very trying conditions described hereafter. For other reasons, the section devoted to criticism has had to be a stern selection. No doubt many will notice here some missing article or other, but the huge production of criticism on Vizenor forces one to make drastic decisions if one wishes to ever even think of completing such a venture. We hope to have retained the major books and articles, by recognized specialists and/or according to their availability, while inaccessible or less focused material has been omitted.

3For one thing, some of Vizenor’s older publications are very difficult to trace—newspaper articles, first publications of poems and stories, and so on. But after all, this does not come as a surprise in the case of someone who started publishing in 1968, and quite often at small presses.

4Another difficulty, though, arises with classification, for Vizenor consistently, and willfully, blurs the limits of genres and categories. Hence the difficulty to determine an altogether satisfying method—some autobiographical pieces are written in the form of poems, as we know, but they may also appear as parts of essays; on the other hand, essays can be mostly poetical, fiction interspersed with essays, fictional dialogues can be used to enliven non-fiction.

5Yet another pitfall comes from the fact that Vizenor is prone to recycling the same material again and again in various ways, one of them being by collecting previously published non-fictional texts in fictional stories, autobiography, or novels. Quite often too, the same texts have been re-published in various contexts and under different titles. Tracing them then proves quite problematic and frustrating, as many such references inevitably evade salvaging; and many essays, while published separately, are also found elsewhere as parts of whole books. What comes to mind first is Darkness in Saint Louis Bearheart, published in Minneapolis in 1978, and reprinted under the title Bearheart: The Heirship Chronicles in 1990. Less visibly, some short pieces have been published several times. One of them, entitled “Manifest Manners: The Long Gaze of Christopher Columbus,” first published in Gone to Groatan in a slightly different version in 1993, was a year later published in a boundary 2 special issue, and has the same title, but not the same subtitle as the collection of essays published in 1994, Manifest Manners: Postindian Warriors of Survivance. Still more unusual, the same short piece can appear under a variety of titles: “Four Skin Documents” is an excerpt from Landfill Meditation, published in 1991, but had previously been published as “Word Cinemas” in Book Forum in 1981, and is reprinted as “Four Skin” in Tamaqua 2 (Winter 1991).

6As manifest in the following bibliography, a truly significant number of texts assume this protean plasticity. Whenever possible, compilations of references have been retained, not just for the sake—and pleasure—of exhaustiveness, but more importantly because of what they tell us about Vizenor’s relation to his own texts: an attachment verging on reverence, fighting off oblivion, neglect—or just the more commonplace tendency to keep the past where it belongs.

7If Vizenor’s written work is remarkable for this constant repetition of the same excerpts, phrases, images or metaphors—a mannerism which can be quite unsettling, or even feel irritatingly complacent—, one cannot but be struck, again and again, by his very special relation to his own words and created world. Not at all gratuitously, but driven by their vital secret rhythm and internal logic, Vizenor circles and dives into well-trodden paths, from which he now and then diverges, only to better come back unresistingly, a loving captive of the echoes in his fantasy world.

© Presses universitaires de la Méditerranée, 2007

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